I had no intention of writing about Tiger Woods and his oh so public trial by media and public opinion. There is already far too much ink and acetate being wasted on this story. It was my belief that whatever comes of this fiasco is self-inflicted and well deserved. In any case, Tiger may be hurt both financially and personally but he will never be poor. He can hide out on his yacht for the rest of his life if he wants to or he can return to golf and make many more millions of dollars just from his future winnings and appearance fees. Other than passing interest in what has become a train wreck, you have to look even if you don’t really care, I don’t see the relevance of this story to anyone but Tiger’s friends, family, sponsors, the professional golf tour and the networks who depend on him for ratings. I certainly don’t see the travails of the Tiger as front page news over a week after the story came out. But that’s me.
A short telephone conversation with a friend, a former journalist, got me going on the subject. It made me wonder once again about the way the media is heading. I understand the TMZ’s of this world, the tabloid press and even all news TV. Scandal is their bread and butter. The more they can make of the Tiger story the more newspapers and soap suds they will sell. Heck TMZ and the Florida tabloids are being credited with getting the story right, meaning Tiger’s dalliances, even though they blew the initial story by reporting that Tiger was in critical condition. In typical fashion Fox and CNN repeated the fact that Tiger was in bad shape which led to mainstream TV and newspapers picking up the story without fully fact checking the original reports. I’m not surprised anymore by shoddy journalistic practices.
What does surprise me is the complete lack of depth and context from the national networks in the U.S. and Canada. The same is true from the major newspapers. So few reporters have attempted to understand Tiger and everything that his actions represent. Look, I don’t know this for a fact but I am willing to bet that Tiger is not the first pro golfer to have an affair or pay for sex. For the most part you have a bunch of very rich men traveling on their own, without families, for up to ten months a year. In fact I will go further, I’ll bet many pro golfers and more than a few golf journalists knew exactly what was going on with Tiger. Until TMZ reported it and Tiger drove his car into a tree and a fire hydrant in the middle of the night, they all looked the other way.
I know for sure that baseball, football and hockey journalists know many a scandalous tale about the men they cover; young men that are about the same age as Tiger, also very rich, if not in Tiger’s financial league, and also very desirable because of their athletic prowess. Yet these stories do not get told or written. I’m sure the same is true for the music journalists who cover the major rock stars. Why, it is even true in most cases, although less so since Bill Clinton, for our politicians.
None of the above makes the actions of serial or even one-time screw-ups right or even tolerable. It does beg though, for reporting that looks at the perils of stardom and the attitudes of young filthy rich and spoiled men. It also begs for a serious look at the women who are attracted to stardom, wealth and power even when they know the men in question are married and unlikely to leave their wives for the likes of a groupie. These are the kinds of items that were once used to further an ongoing story. A look for new angles and a search for understanding was part of the journalist’s job. Now it seems, not so much.
So day after day we are subjected to a torrent or a trickle of new facts. Today a sponsor pulls out of their deal with Tiger. Yesterday Tiger’s wife bought a mansion in Sweden. Tomorrow, who knows, maybe a new woman comes forward to grab a piece of national notoriety by spilling the beans on her affair with Tiger. None of this helps us to understand what I continually say is the prime question of journalism. Why! Why did Tiger cheat on his gorgeous wife? Why do the women throw themselves at Tiger and men like him? The facts have no real meaning until we can understand them in the context of the entire situation.
In the meantime the serious media lower themselves to new depths in covering Tiger and stories like his. The question I have to ask is whether this is because of the poor financial situation that newspapers and television find themselves in, a desperate need for sales, or is this just the way of the future? Have we as a nation of voyeurs seen so much of Ozzie Osbourne, Montel Williams, and Survivor that we just can’t seem to get enough. People! Do you know what’s going on in Copenhagen? How about HST? Do you understand what Canadians are doing in Afghanistan? It’s time to get a real life. The Tiger Woods story makes me very happy to be a former journalist rather than a practicing journalist.